Invisible Children, Moving Around the Problem

 

This week, Invisible Children released Move, they’re most recent film. The film’s goal is to shed some light on the aftermath of the Kony 2012 video, looking at how IC dealt with the rapid growth of the movement and how co-founder Jason Russell coped with the stress of being at the helm. The film also explained the immediate future of the Kony 2012 movement: a large-scale lobbying initiative to take place in November. If Kony is to be captured by the end of the year, a lot of pressure needs to be put on a number of governments to buckle down and really commit to the cause. The push, called Move:DC, aims to concentrate IC’s grassroots support all in one place – the nation’s capitol.

Three years ago, I went to the last big lobby day held by IC, Resolve, and Enough Project. The event was informative and effective, with educational workshops and lobby-training. There were multiple instances where I felt specifically that I was making a difference, that I was where I was supposed to be. And it wasn’t false: almost 2000 constituents made it one of the biggest lobbying initiatives, and over the following year I led a dozen local meetings with congressional staff – the bill ended up passing with more co-sponsors than any Africa-related legislation in modern history. With that in mind, Move:DC will be huge – and I think it will be effective. And while I don’t have the specifics for what the policy asks will be in November, there is a glimpse into what will be going on at the IC blog:

We ask that:

Governments in central Africa provide better protection for their people, while also denying Kony and his top commanders any safe haven. This includes the territory controlled by Sudan where Kony is thought to be hiding, and the Congo, which continues to downplay the impact of LRA violence.

The United States provide increased resources to help train and assist regional forces that are pursuing Kony and other top LRA commanders and contribute resources to overcome the critical gaps in air mobility needed to facilitate rapid movement above the difficult terrain of the region.

All donor governments expand funding for programs that directly benefit affected communities, including initiatives to develop basic infrastructure such as roads and communications systems and help rescue and rehabilitate LRA abductees.

Outside of beefing up military support, there are arguably relatively few drawbacks in these asks. Building up infrastructure in the rural LRA-affected areas could go a long way, and IC is already involved in rehabilitation centers, early warning radio networks, and dwog paco “come-home” messaging to encourage defections from the LRA. Moving our lawmakers to help add to these programs through development agencies could go a long way. The election will have already happened, so hopefully a lame duck Congress can be urged to move forwads on the issue. Lasting peace and the end to the LRA might not be in our grasps, but it could be on the horizon.

But Move fails to help IC truly recover from the Kony 2012 fallout. The film is right that a lot of the attention that was initially drawn to Kony and the LRA ended up turning on IC, detracting from the goal of the video. But they’re wrong to say that is a bad thing that resulted solely from a lack of communication. The video concentrates on the naysayers that called IC a scam, ignoring important critiques that looked at IC’s actual work and narrative and had problems with it. Firmly stuck in the middle of the two, I was disheartened to not see pushback from IC. Self-refelction is hugely important, and this was a chance for IC to better explain what it is they’re doing and why we should continue suppoting them. The video had a chance to respond to legitimate critiques about its model, about its goals, and about its programs. And instead it circumvented the whole conversation. It concentrated instead on its curent campaign, which has potential and is important – but the film easily could have (and should have) done both. I like to think that IC learned some good lessons from this spring, but the video suggests otherwise. Now, the narrative about Kony 2012 is as simplified as the narrative of Kony 2012.

Throughout the Move video, and through a lot of IC’s older films, is a motif of the millenials standing up and sticking it to the olds. It’s true that we get a lot of flak for being radically different from our forebears. With such a rapid change in technology, that’s a given. IC is absolutely right to call on America’s youth to prove them wrong, and I think a nationwide push to fund development in central Africa and encourage involvement in holding government accountable is laudable. But let’s also teach the millenials that when shit gets hard, you don’t just move on. We can simultaneously address critics, create a better and stronger movement, and help stop the LRA. Let’s do that.

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Why Uganda? Why Now?

So, I’ve been working on revising a paper about US relations with the ICC for the past week or so, and I find myself revisiting the issue of Obama sending 100 troops to Uganda to help hunt down the LRA.  I went to a professor of mine to talk ICC, and we ended up debating the deployment quite a bit, discussing the reasons for sending troops to Uganda now.

I wrote a pretty jumbled analysis of the decision already, but I concentrated on whether or not it was a good idea and if it would work. I barely scratched the surface of why. But it’s definitely worth asking. The LRA have been committing atrocities pretty much from its inception in the late 1980s. The ICC issued indictments for Joseph Kony & Co. in 2005.  The LRA were driven out of Uganda in 2006, and civilians have been leaving displacement camps for home ever since. Why is the US sending military advisers there now?

It’s definitely true that there is broad grassroots support for this type of action.  Between Invisible Children and Resolve, there are tens of thousands of supporters who have been writing letters and attending local lobbying meetings pressing the issue.  I was among over a thousand people who went to DC in the summer of 2009 after the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act was introduced, lobbying for its passage.  Ultimately the bill passed with more support than any Africa-related issue in US history (allegedly).  But that’s only part of the story.  The law passed last May, and the White House’s strategy was released last November. Why did it take nearly a year for (part of) the strategy to be implemented?

Some suspect that this is America’s pushback to Sudan’s power in the region.  The US pushed Sudan to oust Osama bin Laden back in the day, and Bush was a huge supporter of South Sudanese autonomy and later a critic of Khartoum’s actions in Darfur.  Obama has been similarly vocal about both issues.  So, it’s pretty clear that the US has staked out its position against the Sudanese government.  While it’s true that the LRA enjoyed Sudanese material and financial support as well as safe haven in the past, it seems that such a relationship hasn’t existed for years.  Because of this, I don’t think that the deployment of 100 troops in neighboring states is quite the statement to Sudan that others say it is.

One idea that is gaining some traction is that the US is rewarding Uganda for its actions in Somalia.  Uganda has been one of the primary military participants in AMISOM, the multilateral effort to fight al Shabaab. Uganda has also suffered from this engagement at home with the World Cup bombings in 2010 being linked to al Shabaab. The US hasn’t been publicly involved in fighting in Somalia since the debacle almost two decades ago, but it has been a longtime supporter of the mission. Indeed, several members of Congress at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the deployment in Uganda made mention of Uganda’s work in Somalia.  But I wonder if this really makes sense, but that stems mostly from my skepticism that Museveni cares that much about the LRA since he never really cared in the past unless it helped his image during election season.

One thing that I haven’t heard many say, and I think it’s worth addressing, is the state of US-ICC relations.  The Bush administration was staunchly opposed to the International Criminal Court, and even undertook a campaign of isolating the Court in hopes of destroying it. That is, until Colin Powell called the crisis in Darfur genocide.  That began a slow and gradual detente as the US abstained in the Security Council vote to send the Sudan situation to the ICC and then provided logistical support to the Ugandan military in catching Kony.  The Obama administration has been more involved with the ICC than its predecessor, and even voted in the Security Council to refer the Libyan situation to the ICC.  It seems like assisting in the apprehension of the ICC’s first indicted criminals falls neatly into this trend of easing the tensions between the United States and the International Criminal Court.

It’s Rebel Leader-Hunting Season

On Friday, the press began to run numerous stories about the announcement that President Obama had authorized the deployment of about 100 combat-ready troops to Uganda to take an advising role in order to help capture or kill LRA leaders. Obama wrote a letter to John Boehner about the deployment two days after the first troops had landed in Uganda, placing the statement square on a Friday afternoon. This was a scrolling headline for some, but for me it was all over the internets. Stuff like this happens when you’re Facebook is filled with Invisible Children activists and your Twitter is dotted with development wonks and academics that are experts in the region. Let’s look at what exactly is happening here.

Let’s start with why this is happening. In the letter, (which can be found here) Obama references that the LRA are impacting regional security, the passage last year of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, and national security interests in the region. The troops are destined for Uganda, but will be going to the DRC, CAR and South Sudan as long as each of those countries agree to host them. The troops will be combat-ready, but will only be serving in an advisory role.

Full disclaimer to the few readers that don’t already know, I volunteered with Resolve to help advocate for passage of the aforementioned bill. I’ve continued to work with them to advocate for more action from the Obama administration on this issue. That said, I’m not sure where exactly I stand on this decision. Over the years, I have had at least a few conversations with fellow activists about the possibility of deploying American forces – advising or combating – to remove LRA leader Joseph Kony. Let’s take a look at some of that, shall we?

Why don’t we send some U.S. troops to just go snipe Kony?

Well, for starters, that’s a really bad idea and it probably wouldn’t work.  First we’ll be needing permission to run the operation (well, I guess we don’t need permission if we decide to just fly in on a stealth helicopter and shoot him in the face, but still. We should). Kony could be in one of a few places: northeastern DRC, southern CAR, South Sudan, or Darfur. The DRC has a history of being used as a training ground for atrocities, place to push a rebel group you don’t like or place to start your own rebel group if you want. It’s not fond of having more armed forces in the area. The DRC has already asked the Ugandan military, currently hunting for Kony, to get out. Twice. And it tried to kick out MONUC despite never really solving the 20-rebel-groups-hide-here problem. Supposedly Kabila is “pleased” with the recent U.S. decision, but I can’t read French and he’s changed his mind after the fact before.

Anyways, if we were to send U.S. troops in to do the job, they would face quite a few setbacks. The terrain is densely forested and rural, and there are very few chances to use surveillance such as cell phones and satellite tracking. Kony has historically established wide networks of soldiers around him so that he knows when trouble is afoot. That’s how he’s survived for 25 years, outlasting the Holy Spirit Movement and the UPDA and evading the UPDF, SPLA, and even Guatemalan special forces (killing 6 when the UN tried to catch him a few years ago). He will know what’s up. Not knowing the terrain or the language puts the forces at a disadvantage against a guy who has literally lived in the bush for twenty years.

That, and the specter of Somalia (despite huge differences between the situations) seem to be why Obama has gone with the advisory route, which still smells a little bit like Vietnam to many, but that is also a vastly different situation. Museveni has already given assurances that the Americans are here to advise, not to fight, simultaneously boasting about how the UPDF don’t need help to fight their wars. And so the US “personnel” have begun to arrive in Kampala, and will pretty soon begin to deploy to the other respective countries in the region.

Except for Sudan. While the LRA are currently scattered across DRC, CAR, South Sudan and Darfur, a year ago reports said that Kony was en route to Darfur. Darfur would be part of Sudan, and thus out of reach to both central African militaries and US advisers. I feel like if anybody asked Omar al Bashir if it was okay to enter Sudan to apprehend a leader indicted for war crimes, he might think you were talking about him since, you know, you could be. If Kony hasn’t made it to Darfur yet, he’s probably thinking about it.

But why send the advisers there now?

The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act passed in May of 2010, and the requisite strategy on the LRA was released in November of that year. Since those have been around for a while, some are asking, “why now?” Well, since then, all has been quiet on the LRA front until Resolve mentioned AFRICOM’s nudge-nudge that a deployment could happen soon. ABC News reported that the plans have been in the works for over a year, but that resources were not available until now. Some have speculated that the U.S. is rewarding Uganda for its contributions to Somalia’s fight against al Shabaab.

I don’t quite know if that makes sense. Uganda itself is really not concerned with the LRA anymore. The government is dealing with economic protests and its huge effort with AMISOM fighting al Shabaab. The LRA haven’t been active in northern Uganda for years, and when I was in Uganda last year many people told me they were far more concerned with the upcoming elections and Museveni’s continued rule than with a rebel group in the DRC – especially in central and southern Uganda, where civilians never really faced the threat of the LRA. This deployment is fueled by grassroots efforts, and I think that Uganda will accept it as another way for the UPDF to project power in the region.

One other piece that fits nicely that I haven’t seen reported is that it is yet another nod from the Obama administration to support the ICC. After Bush relaxed the hatred late in his term, Obama has stepped it up with a yes-vote on the Libya resolution and a heavy, heavy presence at the ICC Conference last summer. Assisting in the capture of Kony could show real U.S. support for the ICC without all the supposed worries of actually joining up and ratifying the Rome Statute. It’s an international and human rights win without any of the duke-it-out-with-Jesse-Helms bad press.

Will it work, and if not, what will?

I’ve been pushing for the Obama administration to address the crisis for a long time. The region that the LRA operate in has almost zero infrastructure and is completely ungoverned. This is why there is so much lawlessness in these corners of the DRC, CAR, and South Sudan. The key to protecting civilians and ending these types of insurgencies is to make it difficult to operate there. Whether the advisers go there or not, the thing that needs to happen is more support for infrastructure in the region.

Speaking specifically to the LRA, Kony has got to go. There have been reports about how fractured the LRA are, but they are usually followed by a former abductee mentioning that Kony is communicating with other leaders constantly. The LRA has a highly concentrated command structure, and getting rid of Kony could actually resolve the entire issue.

While training troops and assisting with intelligence to find Kony, we also need to help build up government legitimacy and accountability. Resolve indicated in a recent post that the US personnel will be able to investigate UPDF abuses “and (hopefully) hold them accountable to a higher human rights standard as they interact with civilians across the region.” I have yet to see that reported anywhere else, but if that is true it is a huge step. The Ugandan government’s handling of both the civilian population in northern Uganda and abroad has been abysmal and needs to be addressed. The UPDF itself testified that it had committed 501 human rights abuses in 2005 alone. If a handful of advisers can simultaneously help catch Kony and bring accountability into the UPDF, it will go a long ways.

In summation, the decision has little guarantee of succeeding, but there is little risk for the US. AFRICOM has said that the advisers will not be accompanying on any missions to actually capture Kony, only on training missions. This means American soldiers should not be in any real danger, although that’s really hard to say for sure. If Kony is captured, it will be an easy foreign policy win and a great step for human rights in central Africa. If it doesn’t work, the advisers can quietly return and say they did their job, which was to train the regional forces. There’s a lot to gain and not a lot to lose, so why not try it?

“Dr. No” Got the Message

Roughly a year ago, when local lobbying was at its height for the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, the bill’s co-sponsors tried to pass it by unanimous consent.  With more co-sponsors than any Africa-related legislation in modern American history, it was a good idea.  And then Tom Coburn stepped in.  Known for blocking everything that costs more than a penny for Congress, Coburn had decided that the LRA bill would be one of his many stands.  He he blocked a bill with bipartisan support from the country at large, including his state’s senior senator , and thousands of his constituents.  Needless to say, grassroots organizing got a move on.  Quite a few of my friends, from across the country, held a vigil in front of his Oklahoma City office 24/7 until he took the hold off.  All told, the vigil lasted eleven days before a deal was reached, and the bill passed the Senate the next day.

Dr. Coburn was in the news again this past week for being one of the more vocal opponents to the 9/11 health bill.  The bill would have compensated a number of first responders who were suffering from health problems related to 9/11 and the rescue efforts that followed in the rubble.  After Jon Stewart hosted a number of first responders on his show to call out opponents, the general populace started getting up in arms about it (including Rudy Guiliani and Mike Huckabee).  After all the uproar, Coburn finally decided to give in (after bringing down some costs, obviously).

I’m all for being careful with money and watching where the government spends money, but Coburn has gone to the extreme. He also blocked aid to Haiti after the earthquake there, among other hot topic blocks.  It seems like he always needs a level of shame before he’ll back down.  I hope he gets smarter about where he chooses to put his foot down in the future. It’d make government work a little better, which – according to Coburn – has been his intention all along.

From Promise to Peace

A few months ago, President Barack Obama signed into law the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.  It was a piece of legislation that I had spent almost a year pushing for through local lobbying and organizing.  I think most of you can remember my excitement when the House finally passed the bill. In total, I attended seven or eight lobby meetings and made dozens of phone calls before it was finally passed.

Three months later, it looks like I’m back at it.  Included in the law was a mandate that, in 180 days, the Obama administration draft a strategy of how the United States would assist in apprehending the LRA leader Joseph Kony.  Upon signing the bill into law, the President stated that the U.S. was dedicated to this mission.  Soon after, Secretary of State Clinton said much the same thing.  Since then, not a word – and there’s only 70 days left.

Resolve Uganda is about to launch a campaign to keep pressure on the Obama administration from putting together a piecemeal strategy.  If this law is going to do anything, it needs to be a comprehensive plan.  Last week I met with the District Director at Rep. Harry Mitchell’s office and urged my representative in the House to state that he would read and review the strategy.  I’m trying to muster some support for an end-of-month meeting at the office of my former representative, Jeff Flake.  Hopefully, we can keep the pressure on or else this year of lobbying will have amounted to little.

Without Objection

Yesterday evening, the United States House passed the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009.  I was at home watching C-SPAN and was elated to hear it pass.  A number of representatives made statements on the floor about the atrocities carried out by the LRA, including all of the original co-sponsors and both the chairman and ranking Republican of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  In theses statements, several representatives mentioned the work of advocates and activists.  And boy it’s been a long haul for a lot of the people I know.  Invisible Children made a sweet video breaking down everything I’ve written here, so feel free to get some visuals. In April of 2009, nearly 100,000 activists took to the streets in 100 cities around the world for a campaign that ended six days later in Chicago.  In May, Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sam Brownback (R-KA) introduced the bill, and a piece of partner legislation was introduced in the House by a trio of representatives.  A month later, 1700 activists descended on Washington, DC for two days – the most for any lobbying initiative.  The months since have been dotted by district meetings all over the country, and slowly the support trickled in.  In addition to lobby meetings, over 250,000 signatures were gathered for the Citizen’s Arrest Warrant for Joseph Kony and were hand-delivered to the State Department.  When Senator Tom Coburn tried to block the bill from passing in the Senate, a grassroots campaign led to activists sleeping outside of his office for 262 hours until he removed his hold (and the bill passed with unanimous consent). The bill gained the support of 65 Senators and 201 Representatives, the most of any policy bill in this session and the most for any Africa-related bill in either chamber in modern American history.  And on Wednesday it passed the House by voice vote and without objection. If you want to know more about what this means (and doesn’t mean), my friends at Resolve Uganda put together a break-down Q & A and John Prendergast wrote an article for Huffington Post about the bill as well.  The main thing you should know is that it will soon become law for the US to help apprehend Joseph Kony.

UPDATE (5/14) – Kim and I totally saw an Invisible Children ad on TV last night.  Totally weird, totally cool.  If you get Halogen.tv you should check out all of the IC films they’re showing. :D

UPDATE (5/15) – A couple more links for everyone! Senators Russ Feingold, Sam Brownback, and Jim Inhofe, together with Representatives Jim McGovern and Ed Royce issued a joint statement celebrating the passage of the bill that you can read here.  And, props to Resolve Uganda are in order.  The organization called for supporters to ask for statements from their representatives.  Their goal was five (only about 10 have made statements on this issue in the past ten years) and by the time the bill came to a vote fifteen statements had been made.  You can see a full transcript of the statements on Resolve’s website.

Victory.

Big news for my friends in Oklahoma and across the country, as well as for us here in Arizona.

On March 9th, 41 days after he put a hold on the bill and 262 hours after activists began camping outside of his district office, Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma released his hold on the bill.  Just a few hours later, it passed the Senate with unanimous consent.  The compromise they reached was pretty simple – changed some language to make it more direct that the $40M would be offset and not add to the deficit.  Coburn sticks to his principle, we stick to ours.  So, so excited to see this go through the upper house.  Now we just need to turn to the House of Representatives, where we only have 162 co-sponsors so far.

Speaking of which, here’s the personal victory.  In June my friends met with Representative Harry Mitchell’s staff in DC.  I’ve met with his staff twice here in Tempe.  After all of this, my friend Kristi met him at a fundraiser and mentioned the bill – he said he had never heard of it.  Demoralized, I sent a few follow-up e-mails to his staff and voila!  He co-sponsored yesterday!  I’m such a happy camper right now.  Nationally, we passed the bill in the Senate and my friends in Oklahoma managed to do the unthinkable.  Locally, a few good friends and myself put this obscure African bill on the desk of our representative and convinced him to put his name on it.  It’s a good day for activism.

I want to leave you with a little evidence of how commited people are.  The circles are the homes of people who ended up in Oklahoma City for 262 hours in the rain.

The Hold Out came from all over! (Picture by Rachel Bryan)

The Oklahoma Hold-Out

As of right now, the hold-out in Oklahoma City has been going on for more than 24 hours. They’re holed up near the Chase Building, where Senator Coburn’s office is, and they’re committed. I have friends from Austin and San Diego that are there, and I heard supporters from Chicago and Los Angeles have also converged on the Sooner State. As I mentioned in my last post why there are there, they are asking Senator Tom Coburn to remove his hold on the Bill. On the same day as the rally at the OKC Capitol, Senator Russ Feingold called on Coburn to work with the original co-sponsors.

I not only admire this strong commitment to peace in the region, I share and support it. If it were up to me I’d probably be hunkered down with them right now. Supporters are flocking from across the country to one city. Supporters who can’t make it are sending food and blankets to keep them going. They even brought the Live Feed. It’s like a mini-Rescue, when 100,000 people in 100 cities supported each other for 6 days until Oprah addressed 500 of the faithful in Chicago. I’m really excited to see how it all plays out.

But I’m really worried for this bill and whether or not this campaign will work. You see, Senator Tom Coburn is a unique individual. Like a counterpart in the House, my former Representative Jeff Flake, he has one platform. The single thing he stands for more than anything else is not just fiscal responsibility, but fiscal restriction. Senator Coburn drafted a list of requirements for bills, and if a proposed bill does not meet these requirements, he refuses to allow it to pass. He has done this time and time again, placing holds on numerous bills. He even carried a little cheat sheet with a run down of each bill because he has holds on so many.

When approached about this Bill in particular, he stood his ground. I admire a man of his principle, but I’m worried that we;re reaching a stalemate. When a constituent asked about the bill (about 4:00 in), the Senator said he would support an offset to the State Department. This compromise was offered, and he still refused. I asked some sources, and they’re fairly certain that compromise wasn’t plausible even when Coburn said this. Numerous other compromises have been pitched, all to be rejected. The bill doesn’t even appropriate extra funds for this – it just authorizes spending and Congress will figure out where the money comes from later.

The problem is, Coburn won’t back down on this issue. Another problem is that we won’t give up on this bill. It means too much to the thousands of activists across the country. It means even more to innocent civilians in four east-central African countries. It means even more to those child soldiers and sex slaves in the LRA. So, we’ll keep pushing. My hope is that Oklahoma’s junior senator will cave under constituent support. But I’m prepared to go the long route and revisit my own representatives in Congress, because the only way to get around this hold is a floor vote – but we need wide support for that. So, I’m hopeful that this campaign will end soon with the removal of Coburn’s hold. But I’m gearing up to meet with important people all across the state. E-mails and phone calls will be going out soon!

Coburn Say Yes

Tomorrow is a big day for the Bill.  As you may or may not be aware from posts of the past, the Bill has 61 co-sponsors in the Senate, the most any sub-Saharan Africa-related bill has received in modern U.S. history.  Such good news that the original sponsors decided to hotline the bill, meaning it would pass with unanimous consent unless somebody actually took the time to put a hold on it to keep it from passing.

Tomorrow, is The OK Says YES Day of Action in Oklahoma City. The Invisible Children roadies, with two Ugandans, are already there. Lisa and Kenneth, director of communications and legislative fellow, respectively, of Resolve Uganda are already there. Activists, from Oklahoma and from elsewhere, are converging on the Capitol. Their mission? Get Senator Coburn to remove the hold.

Coburn has a strict set of principles that all bills must fit before he allows them to pass. His issue with the LRA/N. Uganda Bill is that the costs ($40M over 3 years) are not offset. Problem is, this bill doesn’t add to the deficit at all. If passed, it will approve the funds, which the Appropriations Committee would later direct – that is from where an offset can and probably will come. To add such an offset before would probably lose quite a few votes from whoever doesn’t like where the money comes from. To get passed Coburn’s hold would require a full floor vote, a time-consuming process that would be drowned by the health care overhaul. So this is where we stand.

Activists and constituents are converging on OKC tomorrow. And they aren’t leaving until the hold is removed. The Resolve Uganda crew and those who have the ability and the will are going to camp out at Coburn’s district office until the hold is removed.

If you want to hear from the Senator directly how he supports the cause but not the bill, you can check out this town hall meeting:

Let’s All (go to the) Lobby

In the passed week I have been doing some footwork for the Bill around these parts.  Hopefully it’ll amount to something.

Good news is, the Bill passed committee in the Senate a long time ago and has been hotlined to pass unanimously. Bad news is, Sen. Tom Coburn decided that he didn’t want it to pass, despite the 61 co-sponsors in the Upper House marking the most widely supported Africa-related legislation in modern US history.  In the House, I’m still trying to get a few co-sponsors in the East Valley.

Jeff Flake, strong fiscal conservative and lover of Africa, is my number one target. I met him personally in DC and have been to his district office twice.  He supports our efforts, but has yet to support the bill.  I’m trying to wrap my head around that one, but hopefully he’ll get passed the $30 million for recovery and c0-sponsor it already.

Harry Mitchell, Blue Dog Democrat, is my actual Representative in Congress.  I have been to his offices twice and his staff is super-supportive, but he has yet to help us out.  He’s not in a place of high power for this bill (He’s on the Veterans Affairs Committee, whereas Flake is on the Africa Subcommittee) but any support is good support.  All of the other Democratic Representatives in Arizona have co-sponsored, so I’m hoping he will hop on the bandwagon and get to co-sponsoring.

In the mean time, I’m gearing up for a couple weeks of awareness work at ASU.  I’m rounding up all of our shirts and Erin just sent me a fresh box of trendy hats.  I’ll be putting an order for tote bags in soon, and hopefully we can decorate those in time for the big screenings.  Regardless, we’re hoping for two big turn-outs before Spring Break.  And, for those of you not in the area, you should track down a nearby event!  One of my favorite invisible children, Jacob, the former child soldier from Rough Cut, is headed up to the Pacific Northwest. My good friend Seth is traveling with wise old Norman across the South. Boni, one of the boys living under Lacor hospital in 2003 is going across the Great Lakes region. And New England is home to Innocent, the night commuter from the white bracelet video. And that’s just a few of the great people on tour this spring!  I am so, so stoked for this national tour.  It promises to be super-exciting.